Overcoming Life’s Little Stresses

Thirty three dollars seemed like a bit much for toilet paper.

Granted, it was a twelve pack of double rolls and they accidentally rang it up twice. But after dealing with Comcast all morning and finding out I needed all new tires on my car and hunting through every Brazilian store in town to find the right product to tame my curly frizz, it really just seemed like a bit much.

I decided to do without the toilet paper.

Normally something like that would have sent me over the edge into a combination of complaining and controlling. My day was not at all going as I had planned. I mean, it wasn’t just that the toilet paper cost $33, it was that plus the fact that my husband’s jaw line had grown increasingly chipmunkish over the week and it was time to call in an emergency visit to the dentist. And it wasn’t just the chipmunkish jaw line, it was that plus the fact that we had family in town who we only got to see for 15 minutes. And it wasn’t just that, it was that plus a million other tiny little moments that I could’ve let ruin my day.

But God has been working in my heart, revealing things to me these past few weeks. And, suddenly, though my brain is telling me it’s necessary to take over the reigns and grab control of life, I’m okay with not doing that – okay, I’m learning to be okay with not doing that. I’m choosing to believe that the truth is far and above stronger than my fears of life not going exactly how I plan it in my teeny tiny human mind. And the truth I’m choosing to believe? Well, it’s three-fold.

  1. If I believe what I say I believe, then the things I’ve spent so much of my life worrying about are inconsequential. It goes beyond believing that God is in control and that He has my best interest at heart. If I truly believe that the spiritual is real, is more real, than the physical world I’m experiencing around me, then I will prioritize the eternal over the worldly. If I believe that God’s word is true, then I will stop trying to solve my own problems and keep trouble at bay, because I know that in this world I will face trouble. Instead, I will find peace in His presence. I will stop looking for a solution to what I think my problems are, and instead will find peace in His promises and in knowing that His presence is all around. If I believe what I say I believe, then I will get my eyes off my worries and onto the things of God, for that is where eternity lies. I’d rather participate in the eternal than get bogged down in tires and toilet paper prices.
  2. I get to choose my response to my circumstances. It’s easy to make excuses based on emotions and say that I can’t help myself. My flesh says I feel how I feel and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I rage at my circumstances and allow myself to act a fool. But the truth is, even if all other freedom is stripped from me, I will always have the freedom to choose my response to my circumstances. I will always have the freedom to choose what I believe. I can choose to breathe through my circumstances, put it in perspective, take care of what needs to be taken care of, and move on. It’s the difference in choosing to react and choosing to respond. When I react to a situation, I attempt to master it in my own power; if I pause and then respond, I surrender the moment to the only source of power, God. Reaction bursts from the flesh’s tendency to find offense and defend itself against circumstances. Response overflows from an understanding of who I am in the Spirit of God, from a place of peace and of wisdom. Reaction leads to unrest; response breeds life. When I choose to respond instead of react, I solve problems more effectively and learn from the situation at hand instead of allowing myself to be put down by it. I arise stronger than I started instead of beaten up by the world around me.
  3. Every moment holds an opportunity. I can allow my circumstances to own me, or I can own them and use them for my benefit. Every circumstance bears an opportunity for me to learn something new, be it about myself or about the world around me, and every circumstance holds the chance for me to bless someone else. It’s easy to own the moment when things are going well and life feels like a party. But, the truth is, the most beneficial time to seize the moment is in the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances. It’s like going to the gym. You don’t gain muscle lifting easy, light weights; you gain muscle by lifting a weight that challenges your muscles. You don’t increase stamina by running for a few seconds at a time or lifting a couple of reps at a time; you have to persist through the pain. And just one time doesn’t cut it. To really grow your muscles and get physically stronger, you’ve got to consistently push yourself. It’s the same in life. Easy moments are great, the ones where everything just flows. Those moments are what we hopefully live in most of the time. But if we want to grow in wisdom, in spiritual stamina, in personal strength, in love, we have to press in to the difficult moments that challenge us, we have to persist when the trials just won’t let up, and we’ve got to know that difficult moments will come and continue to push through them again and again.

 

Imagine a life where you seize every difficult moment as an opportunity to grow and increase, to learn and progress to a whole new level. The tough times lose all power. You will thrive in the difficult, take joy in the troubles, and laugh at the days ahead. And why shouldn’t we? Though trials will surely come, we know that God will never leave. He is ever present with us. Each moment draws us closer and closer to forever joined with Him in glory. And what a privilege to participate in His kingdom on earth. How much greater can we participate with Him when we look for Him amidst even life’s most difficult moments?

And so we count it all as joy. We find peace in every circumstance because we know where the power lies. We take ownership of each moment to serve us to grow our spiritual strength and stamina, propelling us forward from glory to glory. We let go of our grip on the nothingness of this world, let go of trying to control the petty things like wi-fi bills and frizzy hair, and we set our eyes on the things above. We open our hands outstretched to receive whatever God has for us in each moment.

And suddenly life becomes meaningful again.